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Rules Update, March 2021

by James Heaney, First Edition Rules Manager

1st March 2021

Happy March! Today is the first Monday of the month. There's quite a bit going on this month, so buckle in!

The Big News: Miracle Worker and ANIMAL Unloaded

Miracle Worker

Montgomery Scott (Errata)

Ever since the Q-Continuum expansion, the skill of Miracle Worker has "included" unprinted Transporter Skill. This has caused any number of new players to look at old players incredulously mid-game and say, "You're absolutely making that up." At least one of them stopped learning the game after learning of this hidden rule, and I'd be surprised if she was the only one.

Back in 2014, years after I returned to the game, I myself was reading the Q-Continuum Rules Supplement, discovered this loaded rule, and went to check when it had been repealed. (After all, the Cybernetics loaded rule and the Tal Shiar loaded rule, both from the same rules supplement, were both repealed by Decipher.) I was absolutely gobsmacked to find out that "Miracle Worker includes Transporter Skill" was still on the books!

It is not good for the game or its teachability when something that looks like a perfectly ordinary regular skill actually has extra rules attached to it -- especially when it's a rare skill that rarely comes up. For most of the game's history, this wasn't even listed in the Rulebook; you could only discover it by stumbling into it in the Glossary! Now, at least, it's in the Rulebook, but very easy for newer players (or even just players who aren't high-level competitors in organized play) to miss. But what could be done? Simply deleting the rule (and Scotty's unprinted Transporter Skill) was mooted once or twice, but was not a popular move with players who've treasured him since the Warp Pack.

This month, we lucked out. We were already doing some errata to several versions of Scotty for other reasons (see the "any" rule, below). Since we were reissuing these Scotties anyway, we decided the time was ripe to make a clean breast of it and solve the issue once and for all.

Today, errata are being issued to all personnel with Miracle Worker, adding printed Transporter Skill to them. (They all keep Miracle Worker.) At the same time, the rule that "Miracle Worker includes Transporter Skill" is cancelled.

Some players wanted to go farther and completely erase Miracle Worker from the game. Others would rather we didn't touch it at all. This errata seemed to be the solution that everyone in the community could live with. As a special bonus, it gave the Creative team a chance to get into the lore and clear up some oddities on these cards.

There was one unfortunate but unavoidable side effect of this change: Montgomery Scott used to be both a free play with Finest Crew In The Fleet and a card draw with Continuing Mission. Because he now has five skill dots, he loses the card draw. (He's still a free play.) Sorry, Scotty: you're too good!


Boshar

ANIMAL

Elsewhere in the Q-Continuum Era, another loaded skill was introduced: the ANIMAL rule. This rule made ANIMAL special in several different ways. ANIMALS could not do a lot of things alone (like attempt missions or staff ships), ANIMAL was not a selectable skill, and ANIMAL-classification personnel (weirdly) remained ANIMALs even if their classification changed. Basically, any time you wanted to do something with an ANIMAL, there was some weird rule about it that -- if you're anything like me -- you'd have to look up in the Glossary whenever it came up.

On the one hand, you can see where Decipher was coming from on this: yes, it's a lot of complex rules exceptions covering only a few cards, but wouldn't it be weird if a Targ could staff a Klingon Shuttle and attempt Bat'leth Tournament by itself? Decipher wanted to protect TrekSense, especially in 1996. (This was also the era of the long-defunct "androids can't be killed by disease dilemmas" rule.) On the other hand, this is a game where Artim, a 12-year-old who has never seen his own people's advanced technology (much less anyone else's!) can personally fly a Flaxian Scout Vessel by himself. Do we have a rule to prevent that? No; it wouldn't be worth the rules clutter. Well, then...

This month, all special rules for the ANIMAL classification are cancelled. ANIMALS can staff ships, solo-attempt missions, and get assimilated. ANIMAL is a selectable skill/classification for K'chiQ, Vina, Soong-Type Android, and Frame of Mind.

Enjoy using your newly liberated ANIMALs to power a Kurlan Nasikos!

There were five loaded skills introduced in and around Q-Continuum. Four have now been unloaded. That just leaves the Guramba rule!

Monthly Rulings

Here's what's covered in this month's Recent Rulings Document.


Blended

The "Any" Rule

So why were we messing around with Scotty in the first place? Because we wanted to simplify the "any" rule, and Blended was getting in the way!

The exact meaning of the word "any" has always depended on the specific card type, with a couple of very particular (sometimes elaborate) exceptions for things like "any Enterprise." The rule also required you to know specific Star Trek episodes, which we always try to avoid. And there were problems with it, like Professor Sisko (Mirror, Mirror), whose special skill didn't actually technically function under the official rule.

Why all this extra complexity trying to figure out who counts as "any Miles" or "any Sisko"? We have a really well-developed characteristics rule whose whole job is to tell us whether a card counts as something or not! Decipher didn't have that, but we do.

So we're using it. From now on, names like "Miles" and "Gowron" are treated as characteristics like any other. A card counts as "any X" if the card says it is an X. No outside knowledge from other cards or from the show is required or allowed. This was already the rule for characteristics like "disruptor" or "cook"; the only change here is that we are extending it to cover names and the other weird cases covered by the "any" rule.

The problem for us was, this broke Blended, which requires "any Scotty." There were several versions of Scotty out there which didn't actually identify themselves as "Scotty." Since we thought it'd be downright bizarre if Montgomery Scott and Mr. Scott (The Motion Pictures), among others, didn't count as "Scotty" for Blended, we had to add "Scotty" into their lore with errata. This Scott mass-errata led us to tackling Miracle Worker at the same time.

This change has very few functional changes. Odo Founder is now "any Odo." Admiral Picard is still "any Picard," but is no longer "any Jean-Luc Picard" (his card never identifies him as Jean-Luc!). Falcon is no longer "any Miles," because (according to the characteristics rule), merely looking like something doesn't make you that thing unless it is a disguise. And there's a few others you would have had to look up anyway, and hopefully won't have to anymore under the cleaned-up rule!


Emergent Life-Form

Emergent Life-Form and Cytherians

The ambiguity about how these two cards interact is so legendary among the Rules Committee that I joke-suggested it as an interview question for the new Rules Manager -- and then was shocked when, in my Rules Manager interview, I had to try to answer it! I don't remember exactly what I stammered out, but I'm sure it was as messy as the ancient debates about it. The current Rules Committee thread about it started in 2015. The public boards have asked about it for even longer.

We finally have a resolution. Here's how it works: if Alice's Emergent Life-Form is on Bob's ship affected by Cytherians, Alice can still choose to move the ship, but only by moving "at full speed" in the direction required by Cytherians, using all available RANGE.

Also, we've added to the Glossary a couple of old Emergent Life-Form rulings that you may have forgotten in the past two decades. First: Alice can only move Bob's ship with Emergent Life-Form if the ship is staffed. That's been in the DRG since 2002, but has never been in the Glossary. Second: Emergent Life-Form only allows Alice to move Bob's ship once, from one location to another, "warping past" all locations in between. You can't use ELF to "bounce" a ship between two missions over and over again until its RANGE is exhausted.


Required Actions Overhaul

We didn't solve Cytherians + Emergent Life-Form by talking real clearly to each other and singing kumbaya. Rules could have done that in 2015, if it would have solved anything.

No, the rules on this point were genuinely vague, and our disagreements about interpreting it ran very deep. We eventually realized that there wasn't going to be a clear answer until we rewrote them. So we did. We ripped out the entire actions - required entry and rewrote it from scratch. We hope it's a lot clearer now.

The one functional change from our rewrite is that we got rid of the weird timing distinction between moving-required and non-moving-required actions. The old rule was that moving-required actions (like Cytherians moves) could happen any time during the Execute Orders step of your turn (unless otherwise specified), but non-moving-required actions (like attempting Samaritan Snare) had to happen immediately. The new rule is that required actions (both types) can take place any time during the Execute Orders step (unless otherwise specified).

For the Cytherians + Emergent Life-Form combo, the relevant part of the rewrite is the paragraph about "must do nothing but" actions. Cytherians says "ship must do nothing but" fly toward the far end of the spaceline. Of course, ships don't really do things; players do things using ships. What "ship must do nothing but X" actually means is, "neither player can use this ship to do anything but X". Emergent Life-Form doesn't expressly override that. It also doesn't provide some independent power of movement -- after all, it has to use the ship's RANGE and the ship's staffing. Thus, it is bound by Cytherians as well.

The theory that ELF could dodge Cytherians restrictions was based on ambiguity in the old text of the required action rules about whether required actions bound the ship itself or the player who controlled that ship. That ambiguity has now been excised: the restriction binds the ship, and thus it binds any player who tries using the ship, even very temporarily, even without formal control over the ship. Since ELF triggers in the start-of-turn segment (not the Execute Orders segment), the required actions rules don't require you to make the "Cytherians move" using ELF (you can wait for your opponent to have to do it himself in his Execute Orders phase)... but the "do nothing but" part always applies, so you can't use the ship to make any other move until Cytherians is resolved.

Does that make sense? If not, ask in the forums. I can talk about this interaction for ages. (Six years, to be precise.)

Azetbur

We frankly feel pretty damn good about pulling off a rewrite of such a knotty and longstanding area of the rules, and we now hope to do a broader overhaul of the action rules later this year.


"Usual species" simplification

Each affiliation in the game has a "usual" or "default" species. Klingon-affiliation cards like Azetbur are Klingon-species, unless other information on the card says she isn't Klingon.  Cardassian-affiliation cards are default Cardassian-species, Kazon-affiliation cards are default Kazon-species, Federation and Starfleet and Non-Aligned cards are all default Human species, and so on.

There were two oddities in this rule, though. First: the Neutral affiliation had no default species, a strange gap that didn't make any gameplay difference but which added a minor exception to the rule. Second: the Dominion affiliation did not have one default species, but three default species: Changeling, Vorta, and Jem'Hadar. Because of this, the Rulebook included a visual description of each species to help players distinguish between them!

Neutral should be treated the same as Non-Aligned wherever possible, so Neutral's default species is now Human. Dominion's default species is now Changeling.

This has no effects on existing cards. Just a bit of cleanup to marginally smooth out the species rule.


General cleanup

After a year of migrating Glossary entries to the Rulebook in very piecemeal fashion, usually doing one small entry per month, we tried a big one this month. We moved the Glossary rules for personaholographic personnel and equipmentimpersonatormulti-affiliation cards, and dual-personnel cards into the Rulebook. These were some of the largest entries in the Glossary, and all were redundant with the Rulebook... so they're gone now, with just a couple of additional clarifications moved into the Rulebook to account for their loss. By itself, this change removes a little over 3% of the Glossary. However, big migrations of this sort are not likely to happen for a few months after this, as we have a full plate for the next little while.

Between Duty and Respect


Intelligence Report: Dogs of War (a full-sized expansion set inspired by the final chapter of Deep Space Nine) is expected to release later this month. It will be accompanied by a rules supplement. We expect that the supplement will contain one rule change indirectly relevant to users of Between Duty and Respect, and roughly four rule changes indirectly relevant to users of A Better Alternative. Further hints I daren't give, since Design is running its spoiler contests in the forums right now! (Go play the 20 Questions thread!) Signed, HTSBEG.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to tell us on the forums what you think of everything we've done this month. Hopefully you're happy, but, if you're not, we want to hear that, too. Until next month, we'll see you on the spaceline!


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